Do You Love Me Or What?
A collection of short stories about love (2017)
Simon & Schuster Australia | 256 pages | ISBN 9781925533286 | March 2017
Written in sparkling, nuanced prose, Sue Woolfe’s stories capture the poignant, shared experiences of connection, devotion, obsession and rejection.
A woman risks everything for a dangerous friendship. Shyness brings two people together and then shyness breaks them apart. A daughter tries to understand why her father abandoned her, and a vengeful lover chooses between a lie and compassion. Someone yearning for a way to belong learns to look in muddy waters, and a blinded dancer sees through her demons at last. A pilgrim seeking transformation in Florence finally realises how to live, and a girl finds a way to overcome her trauma – but a critic tries to maul her after death.
Sharply knowing, wryly humorous and achingly sad, Do You Love Me or What? speaks to the everyday truths of what it means to love, and to be loved.
Above: actress Annie Byron at Gleebooks, Sydney
Praise from her fellow authors
‘I’d just decided to do no more cover quotes – they come in thick and fast and cross-hatch my reading for days – when Sue’s book landed. I love Sue’s work, so naturally I had a quick look. Two hours later I had to put her book down to meet some other demands on my time, my decision to do no more cover quotes utterly reversed!
‘These stories are so achingly intimate, so immediately known, so emotionally satisfying and moving, and written in such luminously simple prose that it’s impossible not to be enthralled at once and lost for hours in the joy of reading. What a gift to the hungry reader!
Alex Miller: Conditions of Faith, Lovesong, The Ancestor Game, Journey to the Stone Country, Coal Creek, etc
‘A book of stories for all the loves that fall between the gaps – of definition, of friendship, of attraction, of understanding. Do You Love Me Or What? is such an appropriate title because each of the stories contemplate the curious question of intimacies to which we cannot put a name or a definition but captivate us entirely. Stories of the passions that cannot be corralled into the acceptable or the socially sanctioned but which inspire and overwhelm us and wound us. Here is a book which traces the outlines of curious fascinations and subverts the suffocation of categories of affection. As Sue Woolfe opened up the possibilities of relationships which wander further into the territory of ‘…or what?’ than ‘Do you Love Me’ I felt the giddiness of boundaries shifting and human interactions becoming endlessly, dangerously porous. Delicately written, sensitively observed, this is a book that explodes the notion of romantic love into a thousand pieces and eight elegant short stories.’
Alana Valentine: Parramatta Girls, Run Rabbits Run, Letters to Lind, Ear to the Edge of Time, Barefoot Divas etc
Praise from critics
The Saturday Paper, March 17, 2017: For a book that deals with existential fears and chasms, Do You Love Me or What? is surprisingly hopeful. Frequently Woolfe’s characters find their convoluted way to a kind of unexpected peace: at the height of Magdalena’s fears about her future, she re-evaluates her anxiety and focus she’s always paid to the smallest details of her life. “She suddenly wondered why she’d always found them worrying. Why, all she’d needed to do, she now thought, had been to be happy.” Diana, the editor who wants a baby, comes to a remarkable realisation in the face of temptation: “…?that those of us who’ve somehow found a temporary place in this slippery whirling world must hold out a hand to those who haven’t”. The letter writer in “The List-Maker” survives her far-reaching trauma by understanding, “This is the way to care for yourself. Not karate not kickboxing not yelling. Maybe not even making lists, but finding kindness.”
There’s nothing trite or didactic in these ideas, and all her protagonists earn them. Over a long and distinguished career, Woolfe has shown a rare ability to blend technical skill with real heart. Here, with beautiful prose and remarkable wisdom, she shows us, if not a specific means of filling the nameless holes in our souls, at least the realisation that we are not alone and we too can survive them.
The Sydney Morning Herald, March 10, 2017
Men, but mostly women, with burdens imposed upon, or chosen by them, people the finely-wrought stories in Sue Woolfe’s Do You Love Me or What? Some characters are constrained by one-sided and destructive friendships, others by their own obsessions. Solitariness usually generates vulnerability rather than resilience in them. The literary editor Diana “was an edger into rooms”, while the SBS translator who becomes a famous author confides that “I come from generations of people uncomfortable if someone gazes at us”.
All these characters are subject to the author’s cool sympathy. Some are granted ambiguous victories. Woolfe writes from the assured vantage of a long and patient career that began almost 30 years ago with Painted Woman and whose highlight – perhaps until now – was Leaning Towards Infinity (1996).
The Oldest Song in the World
4th Estate Australian fiction
We see this world through the eyes of Kate, a thirty-something, white, student linguist who has struggled for a sense of her own identity her entire life because of the circumstances and the forceful and beguiling personalities imposed upon her as a young girl. She is an outsider searching for the Aboriginal woman who can reveal to her the oldest song in the world.
Lyrical and brave, The Oldest Song in the World explores universal ideas of home, belonging and family with sensitivity and gentle insight. And it once again demonstrates that Sue Woolfe is one of Australia’s finest living writers.
Sue Woolfe talks about The Oldest Song in the World on YouTube…
Hudson 1989 -Allen and Unwin 1990, Random House 1999
Editions Phebus (in French) 2007 translated by Marie-Odile Fortier Masek
“Dazzling and disturbing…deliciously persuasive…emotionally dangerous.” Australian Book Review.
“An exquisitely intense book… dazzlingly conveyed…such robust, unpitying and honest writing about women that it becomes writing for everyone.”
Thomas Keneally (Schindler’s Ark
Leaning Towards Infinity
1996 – Random House
Also Womens Press 2003
“What a glorious, nourishing, tumultuous novel.” Fay Weldon
“For the Australian book of the century I would nominate….Sue Woolfe’s “Leaning Towards Infinity” for its luminous melding of style and subject matter.”
Jack Dann, Australian Style 1999
The Secret Cure
Also UWA press 2008
“Captivating with its intimations of sadness and profound insights, it seems to me that Woolfe has painted a picture of the tragic human condition of never quite fitting in to our tiny, pitiable worlds.” Courier Mail.
An unusual novel which requires the reader to simply surrender to its extraordinary beauty. Woolfe successfully combines a complex hart-wrenching love story with explorations into Asperger’s syndrome, autism, science, genetics, psychology, the human condition and the very nature of love.”
Book Tweep – Ann Somerville
How Ten Australian Novels Were Written
by Kate Grenville and Sue Woolfe
Publisher: Allen and Unwin, 2001
The Mystery of the Cleaning Lady
A Writer Looks at Obsession, Creativity and Neuroscience
Publisher: University of Western Australia Press, 2007
Woolfe sleuthes her way through neuroscience and autobiography to produce this revelatory must-have for readers and writers as well as anyone interested in what it means to be creative.
For more on creativity, please click here.